It’s redundant to say that technology has been making a huge impact in education for the last 20 years. Yet, the changes have been so fast that it feels daunting to keep up with them. It seems that every second a new tool or strategy is coming out and revolutionizing education. But what interests me the most is how fast kids keep up with it and how attractive it is to them. More importantly, if we, as teachers, don’t keep up with them, we lose them.
Every time I had to go into a classroom to teach or to help the teachers with new tech strategies, kids seemed to be very receptive and motivated to learn. This happened while helping them to attach a simple picture to their blog posts or having to create a movie for their science project. Moreover, what really called my attention was when they showed a lot of excitement when they had to collaborate with each other on their projects. Students demonstrated great enthusiasm when they had to create Gmail groups to better communicate with each other or to work in small groups on a project using Google slides.
This is not surprising. According to the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, this kind of approach involves activities that are generally focused around four principles: placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction, working in groups, and developing solutions to real problems. Collaborative learning models are proving successful in improving student engagement and achievement, especially for disadvantaged students. This trend is an increasing focus on global online collaboration where digital tools are used to support interactions around curricular objectives and promote intercultural understanding.
As an example, Online school partnerships are a fantastic way to build intercultural understanding among children and teachers. Last year (2016) New Zeland schools created a partnership with schools is Singapore so they could learn from each other. Teachers from both countries are interacting in order to create long term exchange programs for their students. These ones will benefit from the online interaction and learn from each other’s cultures
According to Juliene Reed in her article “Global Collaboration and Learning“, “knowledge of other cultures around the world leads students to understanding and compassion. That, in turn, creates students who take action to make a difference in resolving problems and changing the world to be a better place”. (…) “Technology can be used to promote global learning, provide cultural understanding and build relationships. Educators need to find ways to connect students from different parts of the world so that they can learn together, share knowledge and develop cultural understanding and relationships. Through these types of learning experiences, students will increase their global awareness and understanding of other cultures in different parts of the world. These learning experiences can best be conducted by using technology for teaching and learning.”
There are a lot of different strategies teachers have been using with students, providing them with different opportunities to interact on a global scale. I’ll mention three of them:
- Mystery skype: two classrooms skype with each other, from different places in the world. Students’ goal is to guess the other school’s location (country, state, city, school name) first. They do this by asking yes and no questions.
- Global read-aloud initiative: students from different parts of the world read the same book at the same time and share their thoughts about it.
- Google Tour Builder: reflecting on field trips can be much more interactive and informative by using this tool.
Therefore, it’s important to provide students with a global education. A type of learning where students are exposed to a variety of experiences that bring them a general perspective of the world, inducing them to solve real problems, which they will face outside of their school walls. The use of technology becomes an efficient tool to make this bridge reliable and interesting for kids to achieve their goals.